Zangana slams Bush Administration on Iraq

By Talia Whyte

Iraqi journalist Haifa Zangana says that the Bush administration has made life in Iraq worse than it was before the war began in 2003. Upon the fifth anniversary of the US invasion, Zangana spoke to over 500 progressive women media professionals at the 2008 Women, Action and the Media Conference yesterday about life in Iraq under the occupation and why Americans and Iraqis should join forces to end the war.

Zangana has spent her whole life being a political agitator. When Zangana was only eight years old, she witnessed Iraqis flooding the streets of Baghdad to celebrate independence from British colonial rule. However, this celebration was short-lived when Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party set up house in the late 1970s. Because of her outspokenness against the regime, Zangana was imprisoned and tortured in Abu Ghraib prison. When she was released from prison, she was forced into exile and has live in London ever since, where she is a regular contributor for the Guardian and Al-Ahram Weekly.

She has only been back to Iraq twice since the war began, and is very displeased with the state of all Iraqis, particularly Iraqi women.

“After five years there is complete mayhem,” Zangana said. “What Bush chooses to ignore is to tell Americans about the real cost of the surge.”

Zangana described an Iraq that is largely ignored by the US media, including the approximate 50,000 Iraqis that have left the country every month since the war began, and that only 20 percent of Iraqi children go to school now. Zangana said that 300,000 Iraqis went missing under the Hussein regime, but over one million Iraqis have gone unaccounted for since the war began.

She was also very critical of Basra Children’s Hospital, a failed project sponsored by First Lady Laura Bush and State Secretary Condoleezza Rice to care for cancer-stricken Iraqi children. In 2004 the contract was given to the embattled American construction giant, Bechtel. However, the company was taken off the project after news broke of construction delays, overspending and mismanagement. David Snider, a spokesman for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the State Department agency in charge of the project, said to the New York Times that technically, Bechtel's contract wasn’t contractually required to complete the hospital.

“And now the hospital sits there unfinished, and no child is being helped,” Zangana said.

Zangana is also disgusted that the Bush administration portrays Iraq as having a long history of violence; when, in fact, she says that sectarian violence in Iraq only started in 2003. Most of all Zangana is none to pleased with the US media’s portrayals of Iraqi women as helpless and weak.

“The sectarian government with the support of the US government has no regard for women,” she said. “The US government said it came to Iraq to liberate women. But the lives of women during the war have only gotten worse. Women are raped in Iraqi, American and British camps to degrade their families.”

According to Zangana more Iraqi women have become the heads of households since the war began, and many more of them have become politically active. Before the war one third of Iraqi journalists were women; however, because of the violence, it is very unsafe for them go out and report the news, especially after dark. Nonetheless, there are a growing number of Iraqi women using blogs to talk about their lives, despite lacking electricity and internet access in many areas in Iraq. Zangana requested that the audience of women before her make efforts to unite with their sisters in Iraq to bring the war to a conclusion.

“We need to do more,” she said. “There will be no peace around the world until there is justice.”

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